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Blown Out of Proportion: misadventures of a glassblower in France by Rachel Caldecott

When I started reading this book, I wondered if it would be the same as many other stories of Brits moving to France, buying a ruin and renovating it. Not that I would have minded. I love books about renovating old properties, especially in France. However, what I wasn’t expecting was the almost anti-French-dream story that Rachel Caldecott tells with her wry, often very pithy, humour. This really is a book that tells the family’s experiences as they were, completely unmitigated by rose-tinted specs. In fact, I think their specs showed everything in its truest and most honest detail. 

Some of the stories of their life in the southern French town of Lodève were horrific and hard to absorb at times. Others were funny, and others, such as the warm-hearted treatment they received from some of their local friends, were really lovely.

However, I found the whole family’s gutsy attitude to their relentless series of misfortunes admirable and I take my hat off to them all for their courage in staying and surviving. From the first page to the last, I gasped, laughed, cried and ultimately cheered as I read about their wonderful refugee work. I also loved the descriptions of the glass-making. Fascinating!

Rachel Caldecott and her family deserve medals for several reasons but their sheer will to prevail in whatever they do would win them one alone. Chapeaux to them all! Highly recommended.

The link to the book on Amazon US is here. It is, of course, available on all the other Amazon sites, so use this link to find it on your own market page.

Don’t Eat the Puffin by Jules Brown

What a fabulous book! Jules Brown, born in Ghana and brought up in England’s north, inherited his love of travel from his father and spent thirty years exploring the world as a writer for Rough Guides. These stories are his recollections of some of his many adventures. They are fascinating, often funny and very well written.

As a lover of the ‘did you know that?’ odd facts about places, I especially enjoyed the quirkier corners he leads the reader into. In quest of the less obvious sites and attractions, Jules takes us on all sorts of unusual adventures, hikes and train trips, as well as down mostly-missed alleys to restaurants and bars with a difference.

The selection is incredibly diverse and we travel with him from Canada to New Zealand via China and beyond. But, at the beginning of each chapter, we are always reminded of where he comes from, which is a lovely cohesive device and the glue that holds this anecdotal memoir together. It even had me calculating how far I live from Ghana and Yorkshire.

My favourite chapter, though? Just for the sheer humour, I LOVED the one about Ontario and his Husky ride across the frozen wastes; I laughed till I cried. Brilliant! Altogether, a highly recommended book for anyone, but especially travel lovers.

The link to the book on Amazon (US) is here – sorry, the US site is where I buy from and I’m too lazy to make a universal link, but just change the ‘dot com’ in the address bar to your own site and you’ll find it easily.

Valerie Poore – Interview

I’m very honoured to have been featured here on Tanya’s wonderful website.

T. R. Robinson Publications

Welcome Valerie Poore

Prolific author of multiple memoirs and some novels.

(Links to where books may be found are provided at the end of this interview.)

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Please tell us a little about yourself.

Firstly, thank you so much for inviting me here, Tanya. I was born in London, UK, and lived there until I was thirteen, after which my family moved to Dorset in the West Country where I finished my school and university education. My first job was restoring furniture, which I later did on a freelance basis. During this time, I tried my hand at smallholding and have many happy memories of keeping sheep and all manner of other animals. This was also when I met my husband. By 1981, though, we were both fed up with being broke and cold and so we took ourselves off to South Africa with our two little…

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Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds 4 by Nick Albert

Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds 4

I’ve very much enjoyed all Nick Albert’s previous books and so was quick to snatch up this fourth memoir in the series as soon as it was released. Now I’ve read it, I can confidently say this one was just as entertaining as all the others, even though it covers a period that brought Nick and his wife a good deal of stress and heartache. Without giving too much away, personal and family responsibilities take a greater toll on their lives than anticipated despite being aware of what such commitments might involve.

That said, the author’s gentle self-deprecating humour and endlessly kind nature shine through every page and I really enjoyed it. This book is about real life with all its attendant issues, especially when lived in a remote old farmhouse on a hilltop in Ireland.

Once again, I appreciated learning more about the country, the vagaries of its weather and the charm and quirks of its special people. In short, there are nutty dogs, Errol Flynn-style cats, glorious country scenery, history, and DIY adventures alongside heart-stopping accidents, grave illness, new lives and old. Fresh Eggs and Dogs Beds is a lovely, warm read from one of my favourite memoir authors, and I am very much hoping this won’t be the last in the series.

By the way, for anyone who is interested, Nick kindly did an interview for me on this blog some weeks back.

The link to purchase the book is here

Bombs and Bougainvillea by Linda Decker

I didn’t know what to expect with this memoir when I started reading it. I won it in a draw and somehow had the feeling it was going to be deeply serious. I was wrong. Linda Decker’s lively and engaging writing style and her wry sense of humour bubble out of every page of this fascinating book.

With her background of living in Jordan for several years and her knowledge of middle-eastern culture, the author shows her empathy for the complexity of the situation in Israel, and Jerusalem in particular. This account is a personal memoir of the family’s time in the country, but it also gives valuable insights into the cultures of all the city’s diverse inhabitants.

Ms Decker’s descriptions on the lifestyle, the people, the fears, the tensions and the friendships she made in this sacred city are authentic and rich. Who knew that so many different foods could be kosher? I didn’t. I also didn’t know that even babies could be kosher or not. Nor did I know there were so many historical and archaeological buildings and remains in Jerusalem; remains that are important to all the communities there. It was enlightening to read so much about the history and culture of each of the different sectors.

Altogether, this was a great read and one I’ve thoroughly enjoyed.

The link to the book is here

Interview with Marjory McGinn, the author who puts Greece in the limelight

Marjory McGinn
Marjory’s new memoir

Tomorrow will see the release of a new memoir by one of my favourite authors, Marjory McGinn. Having read all three of her lovely accounts of life in the Peloponnese region of Greece, I was thrilled to see she has published a new book of stories about her life there with her husband, Jim, and the incorrigible Wallace, her spunky little Jack Russel. I am also thrilled she agreed to do a Weberview for me, so without further ado, Marjory, let’s talk about you!

Me. Marjory, could you tell us something of your background and how you came to live in Greece when you went with Jim?

Marjory: First of all, thank you Val for inviting me along for an interview today.

I’ve been a journalist by profession for most of my life, starting in Australia where my family migrated to from Scotland when I was a child. I worked mainly on newspapers as a feature writer and later in Scotland where my husband Jim and I returned to live in 2000. During a downturn in the newspaper industry in 2009, and an Arctic winter, Jim and I decided to go on a year’s sabbatical to southern Greece with our Jack Russell terrier, Wallace. This was at the start of the economic crisis there in 2010 which was a bit risky but as someone who has been visiting Greece since my late teens, I felt confident we would be okay. And we were, so much so, we stayed for four years in all. The trip was also planned as a working holiday and we freelanced for various publications while away. My husband is also a journalist.

Me. That says much about your love of the country, doesn’t it? You initially lived in a small village. Was it difficult to adapt to rural life in Greece?

Marjory: We spent the first year in a hillside village called Megali Mantineia on the wild Mani peninsula of the southern Peloponnese. The location was quite traditional and remote and it was exactly what we had been looking for. Although there were expats living there, we wanted to connect mainly with the Greek community. As I had reasonable Greek to start, it wasn’t too difficult to adapt. I’m not saying it wasn’t without its challenges though as most of the Greeks in the village were olive or goat farmers with a different take on life. They probably thought we were quite mad coming to Greece in the crisis, and worse, bringing our slightly bonkers, hyperactive but lovable, terrier, Wallace with us. Greek farmers tend to look at most dogs as working/guard dogs, not pampered pets. No-one in the village had ever seen a Jack Russell terrier before and thought he was a small sheep or goat because of his white body and black face which was a comical notion. And he often acted like a goat, that’s for sure!

The adorable Wallace

Me. Wallace is such a huge character in your books. I think everyone who has read about him has loved him! What did you find most inspiring as a writer about living in Greece? 

Marjory: There’s no doubt the most inspiring thing about living there at that time was the Greek locals we met. They were inclusive, warm, funny and eccentric too, like the goat farmer we befriended right at the beginning, Foteini, who became something of a star of my first book Things Can Only Get Feta. The situations we found there were unlike anything we would have encountered anywhere else, certainly not in a Scottish village where we had previously lived.

Marjory and Foteini, the wonderful colourful character in her Greek memoirs

Me. I loved Foteini. She was priceless, wasn’t she? But Marjory, you started as a journalist, I know, so what prompted you to start writing memoirs? 

Marjory: As I was already writing features for various publications, it wasn’t much of a stretch to start writing my first travel memoir while living in Megali Mantineia. What really inspired me to do it though was my unusual friendship with Foteini and the stories she shared with me of life in the Taygetos mountain village she came from and stories of her struggles to survive as a widowed pensioner on a small farm holding. I realised early on that the Greek way of life we were experiencing was beginning to change because of the crisis and I wanted to capture some of that in a book before it disappeared forever. And I doubted I’d ever meet anyone in the world quite like Foteini. I couldn’t help but write about some of her more eccentric and comical habits like peeling bananas and then washing them before she ate them because they came from “foreign places” or the way she dressed, her clashing layers, her makeshift shoes, which was highlighted in the first chapter of my latest memoir A Donkey On The Catwalk. 

Me. I am so looking forward to reading A Donkey on the Catwald. In fact, I have not only read all your memoirs, I’ve also read your lovely novels. Which do you prefer writing? Fiction or memoir and why? 

Marjory: I like writing both actually. Although I started with the travel memoirs and my new one is the 4th in the Peloponnese series, I later had the urge to write the novels, both also part of a series and set in the same region of Greece. I wanted to write about life in Greece but without the restraints of non-fiction. You could say I just wanted to let my imagination fly for a while, though ironically, it was a real, historic event in southern Greece in WW2 that inspired the first novel A Saint For The Summer. 

Meg Mantineia, one of the stunning locations Marjory writes about

Me. Perhaps that’s the journalist in you! Do you still write anything other than fiction and memoir?

Marjory: I don’t do much other writing now apart from a blog on my website which has been going for over 10 years. I rarely do freelance journalism now unless it’s something to do with the books or it’s a subject I feel passionately about. 

Me. I imagine your blog takes quite a bit of time too. But going back to books, if you had to give the readers here a tip about how to get started on a book, what would it be?

Marjory: I think the main impetus for starting a book is having a subject you passionately want/need to share with other people. When I was a feature writer in Sydney, I interviewed the Irish novelist Josephine Hart who published her first novel Damage later in life. She told me the time to start writing a book is when it’s too painful not to, which had been her experience. I have thought of that over the years and she was quite right. Prospective writers will know when the time is right

Me. I like that. I think I probably felt the same when I started too. Marjory, I know you now live in Cornwall. Do you see a Cornish novel or memoir in your future?

Marjory: Cornwall is a wonderful place for people with some imagination. It’s wild and very beautiful and I am always open to Cornish stories. Had the pandemic not happened so soon after we moved here, I would have been out more by now, hunting down a few stories, or Cornish characters. I hope I still might set a book here one day. It’s a very literary place too. We live in the south not far from Daphne Du Maurier’s old stomping ground and the house called Menabilly which was Manderley in her novel Rebecca. 

Me. Well, I’ll look forward to it when you do. I also love Cornwall and Daphne du Maurier. Right, a quick change of direction now. What is your greatest strength in life? And then (of course) what do you see as your weakest point?

Marjory: Oh, the questions are suddenly getting harder, Valerie! 😊 I have no idea really what my greatest strength is. But if I had to pick something, I would say my curiosity, especially about people which drew me into journalism to start with. Along with that, I’m quite observant. I tend to remember the smallest, often strangest things about people, and places. My weakness would be therefore, not knowing when to stop looking and digging, and take things more at face value. I can’t always do that.

Me. Those all sound like strengths to me. Curiosity and digging are essential qualities for a successful journalist too, I’d imagine! As a writer, I’m sure you must love reading too. What kind of book do you enjoy reading most?

Marjory: I studied English Literature at university so I have read a broad range of English lit and still love classics: Jane Austen, Emily Bronte, Charles Dickens, but I also love modern literary writers like William Boyd and anything by Patricia Highsmith. During lockdown, I rediscovered a diverse range of writers like Ira Levin (A Kiss Before Dying), and I read most of the books by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (The Labyrinth of the Spirits series set in Barcelona). What a fabulous writer he was. And for a change of pace, I read some Raymond Chandler novels for the first time. I love his turns of phrase. He can be very funny, and I do love books that are funny and witty.

Me. I like Raymond Chandler too. His dialogue is wonderful, isn’t it? About your new memoir, A Donkey on the Catwalk, I absolutely love the title. How did it come about?

Marjory: The new book A Donkey On The Catwalk, as I said previously is the 4th in the memoir series that started with Things Can Only Get Feta. It’s a bit different though as it’s a collection of stories and travel narratives mainly set in southern Greece again but the book also features stories from different locations in Greece that Jim and I have visited, including Pelion and the islands of Crete, Santorini and Corfu. And there are a few stories about my own early wanderings in Greece that I haven’t written about before. The book is much like the others however in that the tales are a mix of comical situations (hence the title) and thought-provoking narratives about Greek life. Foteini is most definitely there, and crazy Wallace is still leaping through the pages! Although Wallace sadly passed away in 2017, aged 16, he is still a strong presence in our lives. 

Marjory, Jim and Wallace in Koroni

Me. Wallace will be there for your readers too as long as we have your books, Marjory. I just wondered, though, are you writing anything new at the moment? Can you tell us what it is?

I never start another book straight away. I always need a break and a chance to let ideas distil for a bit. However, I do have a plot bubbling away in my head for the third novel in the Bronte in Greece series, and another idea for an amusing non-fiction book, not necessarily set in Greece. 

Me. That already sounds great! Okay, last question and then I’ll leave you in peace. If you had a bucket list, what would be in the top three positions?

Marjory: One to three…

1. Now we’re close to ‘freedom’ after lockdown, I’d like to see more of Cornwall and walk more miles along the fabulous south-west coastal path. 

2. I’d like to try kayaking (on a Cornish beach of course) which I’ve never done before. I’ve already bought my wetsuit! 

3. Jim and I would love to go a driving holiday around France, staying in small hotels and sampling great food and local wines. If we finally get another dog, it will have to come along – of course. 

Marjory, that’s a lovely wish list and I sincerely hope they all come to fruition. Thank you so very much for having the patience to answer all these questions. It’s been great to have you on board (so to speak). All the very best with the launch of your new book. I’m sure it will be snapped up in great numbers by all your fans!

For anyone interested in reading Marjory’s latest book, here are the details:

A Donkey On The Catwalk: Tales of life in Greece is published on May 5 as an ebook on all Amazon sites, and shortly in paperback. 

Links:

Website www.bigfatgreekodyssey.com

FB  www.facebook.com/marjory.mcginn

Twitter:  www.twitter.com/@fatgreekodyssey

Amaz author page https://www.amazon.co.uk/Marjory-McGinn/e/B00FIQ0FBK

For the record: a podcast (if that’s not a contradiction)

A few weeks back I had the great pleasure (and fear) of being invited to make a podcast for A Cup of Tea with Alan host, Alan Parks. In the end, and despite my hesitation, I enjoyed it and it was fun to do. For anyone who’s interested the link is here on my other blog.

Interview with memoir author, Nick Albert

Nick, in his other job as a golf instructor

It’s a couple of months since my last author interview here, so I’m delighted to welcome popular memoir author and great Facebook pal, Nick Albert, who has just launched the fourth book in his delightful Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds series. I ‘met’ Nick via the Facebook We Love Memoirs group and quickly became a fan of his writing.

Nick’s latest book
The first three books and his novel

Q: Nick, it’s lovely to have you here. I’ve so enjoyed your books about life in western Ireland. Could you tell the readers here something about your background and how you came to be living in Ireland?

A. Of course. Thanks for asking, Val.

Our decision to sell up and move to Ireland, a country we had never before visited, was very much out of character.

I was brought up in a forces family. When I was born in the late 1950s, my father was still a pilot in the British Royal Air Force. It was the height of the Cold War, so he was moved around quite a lot. For the most part, whenever Dad was posted to a new RAF station, we went too. Before his final posting to Norfolk (in the east of England), I had been to more than a dozen schools. I don’t know if that helped or hindered my education.

In retrospect, military life is an unusual upbringing for a child. With regular postings being commonplace, childhood friendships were short-lived and insubstantial. The accommodation was basic, especially by today’s standards. There was hot water but no heating. Discipline and good behaviour were expected. We children were the representatives of our parents. An RAF officer’s career could easily be derailed by an indiscretion, even if it was by a child. Back then, RAF bases were gated communities — a safe space where an inquisitive child could roam free, especially during the summer holidays. I have many happy memories of laying on the warm grass at the end of the runway, eating a sandwich and watching Lightnings, Hawker Hunters or Vulcans take off towards me. It was my personal air display!

When we moved to Norfolk for my father’s final posting before leaving the Air Force, we lived off base for the first time. Perhaps it was the temporary nature of RAF life or the thick Scottish accent I’d acquired whilst living in Fife, but I struggled to make friends. I was the youngest in my class at school. Arriving halfway through the term and presented with an unfamiliar syllabus, I found it difficult to keep up. For a while, it was sink or swim. I guess somehow, I figured out how to swim.

So, I took acting classes, discovered how to make people laugh, learned to be comfortable with my own company and developed a passion for finding out how things work. Although I’ll never be an expert at anything, I’ve become very good at being average at a lot of things! Such an attitude put me in good stead for the future. My father had been a flight instructor and engineer. He’d also endured the dreadful privations of being a prisoner of war. His stories of surviving the Siberian winters, making daring escapes and adapting to circumstances, inspired me to have confidence in my abilities. For that, and many other things, I’m very grateful.

For the most part, my work history is largely uninteresting. I began in retail, progressed into management, then moved into the financial services sector. Then one day, I was offered a fantastic job. A business acquaintance was setting up a new venture in Africa and wanted me to oversee the project. The position came with a two-year contract, accommodation and an attractive tax-free benefits package. Although it was a tremendous opportunity, the decision was difficult. Lesley and I had only been married for two years and our baby daughter had just taken her first steps. Leaving them behind for the first six months was going to be tough on us all. After much hand wringing and discussion, we decided it was an opportunity too good to miss. So, much to the displeasure of my employer and parents, I quit my job and headed to Nigeria. Inevitably, the venture was a disaster. Just after the office was up and running, and a day before my accrued salary was due to be transferred to England, Nigeria was rocked by a military coup. I was fortunate to get out when I did but had to leave my luggage and all of our money behind. Suddenly, Lesley and I were destitute.

I resolved to do whatever was needed to dig our way out of the financial hole we had stumbled into. I didn’t care if I washed windows, stacked shelves, coached sports, worked in a factory or became Britain’s worst milkman, as long as it was honest work that put money in my pocket. The morning after I arrived home, I began driving taxis. It was the first paying job I could find. I started at 7am and worked for 20 hours. By the end of my first shift, we had enough cash to pay some bills and buy a little food. Although she was upset by how things had turned out, my wife was a rock. With her parents babysitting for our daughter, Lesley went back to work. And so it continued for several gruelling years until we were back on our feet. Eventually, fate turned a kindly eye in our direction. I found work as a retail manager and a few years later was able to return to the financial services sector.

The traumatic period in our lives that followed my ill-fated trip to Africa left Lesly and me risk-averse and hungry for stability. I got my head down, quietly and diligently did my best work and progressed up through the ranks. Life was good once more. We sold our town centre house and moved to a pretty village on the outskirts of Colchester. Our daughter, now an adult, decided it was time to leave the nest. Just as it seemed we had found some permanence and stability in our lives, my employer announced a massive programme of redundancies. The stomach-churning fear of unemployment and destitution returned. I survived that cull and the six that followed, but when another programme of job cuts was announced, I realised I’d had enough. Aged 45 and at the peak of my earning capacity, I was unlikely to progress further, especially in a shrinking sector.

Feeling vulnerable and helpless, we began searching for a solution. It was obvious we would need to move to a more affordable property, but where? Without a guarantee of work, our budget was limited. We considered and discarded prospective properties in Scotland, Wales, England and several European countries. One wild idea we’d often kicked around was to buy with cash, so we could live off the grid, debt-free and semi-self-sufficient, in a smallholding somewhere a long way from civilisation. It was a dream and would have remained so had Lesley not spotted an advert for quirky but affordable properties in Ireland. It was a eureka moment. Suddenly, we could see the possibility. Despite our risk-averse nature, we sold our home, took every penny we had, and bought Glenmadrie, a dilapidated farmhouse in County Clare, in the west of Ireland.

Nick in his beloved Ireland

Q. Wow, Nick, I had no idea you’d had such a diverse background and had moved around so much. What a tumultuous time you had in Nigeria too. Was it difficult to adapt to the quiet of rural life in western Ireland?

A. Not at all, Val. We found everyone here to be affable and welcoming. It helped that we weren’t as wild, woolly and ‘out there’ as some of the previous occupants of our home. When we arrived, Glenmadrie had a considerable reputation as a great party house, where the music was loud, the air would be thick with strange smelling tobacco, and the locally brewed poteen flowed freely. I think our neighbours were quite pleased to discover we were a somewhat middle-of-the-road couple, planning to renovate our home and live a quiet life.

Making friends was a little trickier. Even then, life in rural Ireland revolved around the pub, the livestock mart and the church — in that order! If you didn’t attend those three institutions, you were likely to miss a lot of what was going on. However, people in county Clare are always looking for an opportunity to stop and chat. It’s perfectly normal to find two cars blocking the road while their occupants pass the time of day through the open windows. Anyone delayed by such a casual conversation will happily kick back and read the newspaper until the road is clear. Surrounded by such approachable and relaxed people, we soon made friends.    

Q. It sounds delightful. A pace I’m sure I’d enjoy. But what do you find most inspiring as a writer about living in western Ireland?

A. Probably that Ireland has such a rich history of famous writers. Visiting poets corner bar in Ennis, or reading the names of such iconic figures as George Bernard Shaw, W.B. Yeats, Douglas Hyde, Sean O’Casey, and J.M. Synge, carved into the Autograph Tree in Coole park, would inspire any author. Secondly, the stunning countryside always gets my creative juices flowing — even if it’s only with a camera!   

Q. Ah yes, I’ve seen your photos. Your part of the world looks positively magical and would kick start anyone’s imagination, talking of which, you started off writing fiction, didn’t you? So what prompted you to start writing memoirs? And how long have you been writing?

A. I’ve always been a writer, Val. My first book, “The Adventures of Sticky, The Stick Insect,” was completed when I was eight. At just five pages long and sprinkled with spelling errors, it was not a big hit with the critics. (Haha, I like that! V) Undaunted, over the next 45 years, I continued to write, gradually developing my skills, but not my spelling! What moving to Ireland gave me was space. At last, I had the time I needed to write.

My first published work was the weekly golf instructional column I wrote for the local newspaper. After several years, I had enough content to make a book. It was a massive project and took a lot of work to edit, but by 2010, it was ready to go. The book was well received and, for a while, outsold Tom Watson, who had just narrowly missed winning the Open Championship at the age of 60. (Wow!!)

Bursting with confidence, I wrote two 120,000 memoir manuscripts about our life in Ireland. They were somewhat rambling and wordy, but with the guidance of my publisher, they formed the foundation for my Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds series. I wrote those memoirs because I had a story I felt people would enjoy, especially if it was told with humour and passion. It seems to have worked.

But…before I signed with Ant Press to produce Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds, I began writing a thriller.

Wrecking Crew came out in 2014. The book did well and achieved my aim of creating some strong characters within a believable but twisty storyline. It was only when I began work on the sequel, ‘Stone Façade’ at the beginning of 2020 that I realised I’d dug several inescapable plot holes in Wrecking Crew. Undeterred, I set about rewriting large parts of the original manuscript to fix those errors and improve the pace and readability of the book. I’m delighted with the result. The book was republished in February under the new title, “Hunting the Wrecking Crew.” Production of the audiobook began last month.    

Q. And that one’s on my wish too! Okay, then, which do you prefer writing? Fiction or memoir and why?

A. I really don’t have a preference, Val. They are different hats, but they fit the same head. I enjoy the creative writing process and the pleasure my books bring to my readers. If I could only work in one genre, I’d choose memoirs because it’s a platform for comedy. Nothing gives me more joy than bringing a smile to someone’s face.

Q. That’s a lovely thing to be able to do. Now, of course, I’m wondering. Do you write anything other than fiction and memoir?

A. Yes. It’s a long, slow project, but I’m working on a biography about my father’s fascinating life during WW2. It may end up as a novel, but either way, it’s a cracking tale that should be told.

Q. That sounds very exciting, Nick. You’ve been so prolific, what if you had to give the readers here a tip about how to get started on a book? What would it be?

A. I presume you mean how to begin writing. I’m a plotter. I love my lists, storyboards and notes. I don’t start writing a chapter until I have visualised each scene. Other authors prefer to write on the fly, allowing inspiration to surge from their imagination through their fingers. Whichever you are, one rule is sacrosanct. You must write. Get it written first, go back and edit later. And remember, “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t give up.” That must be true; it’s written on my mouse pad!

Q. I think I’m going to steal that one! Nick, I know that like me, you are a keen renovator. Have you always enjoyed doing DIY?

A. I’d enjoy it more if someone else did it, Val! (funny!) I’m from the ‘make do and mend’ generation. DIY was a life skill, not a talent. That being said, there is a great satisfaction to be found in fixing stuff or making things. I remember the first time I made fire without the use of matches or a lighter. It was a fascinating challenge, both physically and intellectually, but great fun. The sense of achievement when I coaxed those first smoking embers into flames was almost indescribable. Give it a try. It’s more fun than you could imagine.  

Q. Hmm, I’m not sure that would really get me excited, but I’ll give it a go! Now, confession time. What is your greatest strength in life? And then (of course) what do you see as your weakest point?

My greatest (some may say only) strength is adaptability. The ability to take a particular skill or piece of knowledge, twist it around and flip it over so it can work for another purpose. It’s what helps me to be very average at lots of things, without being good at anything. Jack of all trades, but master of none? I can live with that.

The item which makes the top of my very long list of weaknesses is Imposter Syndrome. Even as I write this, there’s a bit of my brain shouting, “Why are you doing this. You have no right to be here!” I understand it’s a common trait of many authors, so perhaps I’m in good company, but from where I’m sitting, it’s a lonely and vulnerable place.

Q. Oh Nick, even if you feel it’s a lonely place, you’re far from alone. I think we all feel that to a greater or lesser degree. But as a writer, you have to love reading too. What kind of book do you enjoy reading most?

A. My collection is somewhat eclectic. I’m not sure what that says about me. I have a library and dozens of stacked boxes bulging with biographies, memoirs, thrillers, fantasy and sci-fi. I have the complete works of Sue Grafton, Lee Child, Tom Holt, Terry Pratchett and William Shakespeare. I’m never without a book. My only requirements are that it must be stimulating and well written. Val Poore’s books make the grade with room to spare! (Aw, bless you!)

One secret I can reveal, if I’m writing comedy, I’ll only read thrillers – and vice versa.

Q. That’s an interesting strategy. I must remember that. I think the only one on your list I’ve read is old Will (barring the last one, of course). Now, I’m sure the readers here would like to know this. Are you writing anything at the moment? Can you tell us what it is?

A. I’m in the planning stage for Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds five. I hope to begin writing by August 2021, but I may delay that date to write the thriller Stone Façade.

Q. Oh great! On both books! So, lastly, Nick, I ask everyone this. if you had a bucket list, what would be in the top three positions?

1. A better bucket… ( 🙂 )

2. To visit my family in England. I haven’t seen them since before Covid arrived.

3. More time to write.

Lovely. I like that. They all sound achievable; at least, I hope they are! Nick, thank you so much for a fascinating interview. I’m so pleased your could make the time to answer my questions. Here’s wishing you well-deserved success with your new book, Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds 4. I’m sure I’m going to enjoy it immensely, and I think it’s almost guaranteed that all your fans will as well. Good luck too with your other writing endeavours. I’m definitely going to pick up ‘Hunting the Wrecking Crew’ very shortly.

For anyone interested, the link to Nick Albert’s author page on Amazon is here

The link to his website is here

The link to his Facebook author page is here

The link to his Twitter page is here

And for anyone who enjoys memoirs about moving abroad and/or country life, I can highly recommend Nick’s memoirs.

Seriously Mum, How Many Cats? by Alan Parks

I read the first book in this series a few years ago, so it was lovely to rejoin Alan Parks and his wife Lorna on their Alpaca farm in Andalucia. I very much enjoyed the author’s accounts of their off-grid life in a remote part of the Spanish province and chuckled at the escapades of the Alpacas. They seem to be quite difficult creatures to breed, and it’s almost a surprise they’ve survived given the help they need…ahem. Enough said and no spoilers, but reading about what it takes to bring a healthy Alpaca baby into the world was a real eye-opener for me.

As for the cats that grace the title of this book, I take my hat off to Alan and Lorna for their compassion and kindness to these feral but enchanting creatures. Alan and Lorna live their life far from the madding crowd and I can well understand how difficult it must be to go to the city and be part of the normal throngs of people after living in such an isolated place. It sounds like heaven to me! I shall now look forward to the next book.

The link to the book is here

Fat Dogs and French Estates 5 by Beth Haslam

What I love most about Beth Haslam’s lovely series of books is that I always feel I’ve been on a visit to France and have spent time with her, Jack and their wonderful collection of animals. This fifth book in the series is another delightful sojourn on their estate in south-west France. I’ve walked the woods, ridden the quad bike, played with the puppies and helped rear baby pheasants, and all from the comfort of my sofa at home. I’ve also joined them at the local auberge, met all their delightful quirky neighbours and enjoyed the beautiful French sun and scenery.

This was a lovely descriptive book, but it’s the rich and lively dialogue that moves the story along. I can just hear their gorgeous vet speaking as well as grumpy Jack’s diatribes that hide a heart of gold, far from the cantankerous impression he likes to give.

Altogether, this was a fabulous, beautifully written memoir that brought a smile to my face with every page. Thank you, Beth Haslam for inviting me into your life and home. I hope I can come again soon!

The link to the book is here